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Babies, immigrants fueling Travis County growth

Friday, February 7, 2020 by Jack Craver

Contrary to public perception, Travis County’s population would be booming even without newcomers from California.

That was one of the main takeaways from a presentation to the Travis County Commissioners Court on the most recent population data from the American Community Survey.

In 2018, the most recent year for which figures are available, the population of Travis County grew by nearly 21,000. Nearly half of that growth is attributed to the “natural increase” in population, or the total births minus deaths (9,688).

The next greatest population driver was newcomers from abroad. Net international migration accounted for an increase of 6,311 residents.

Net domestic migration only accounted for 4,915 residents. That represents a steep decline from earlier in the decade, when net domestic migration peaked at 18,309 in 2012.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt theorized that the major uptick in migration in the early 2010s was driven by the fact that the Austin area fared relatively well in the wake of the Great Recession. As the U.S. economy has recovered, the regional economy may not be as great of a draw.

Population growth here nevertheless continues to outpace the rest of the state and the country. Between 2013 and 2018, the county’s population increased 9 percent, compared to 7 percent statewide and 4 percent in the U.S.

About two-thirds of the population (68 percent) are adults between the ages of 18 and 64, while 10 percent of residents are older and 22 percent are minors. There are far more people aged 25-44 (36 percent) than 45-64 (23 percent).

However, the population is trending older. From 2013-18, the over-65 population grew much faster than the population as a whole. It climbed by 29 percent, compared to 17 percent in the state and 14 percent nationally.

Forty-nine percent of residents identify as non-Hispanic white, while 34 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 8 percent are African American, 7 percent are Asian, and 3 percent identify as “other.”

The great majority of households in the county (69 percent) do not include children, which is 1 percent lower than the national average. Of households with children, 70 percent are headed by a married couple, 20 percent by a single woman and 10 percent by a single man.

The percentage of households with children is similar to state and national patterns. Nevertheless, Commissioners Brigid Shea and Jeff Travillion expressed concern about an exodus of families with children due to the rising cost of living, as well as the impact on local schools.

Travillion recalled a University of Texas study on one neighborhood in East Austin that found there were twice as many dogs as children.

Dogs likely outnumber children nationally as well, though not quite by that extent. According to the American Community Survey, there are about 74 million children. It’s harder to say how many dogs there are, but the American Veterinary Medical Society estimates there are 77 million and the American Pet Product Association claims there are 90 million.

The percentage of residents who speak a language other than English at home has remained steady over the past five years, at roughly 31 percent. The great majority of these are Spanish-speakers (23 percent). Of those who speak Spanish at home, 60 percent report being able to speak English “very well,” compared to about 70 percent of those who speak Asian languages and 77 percent of those who speak other Indo-European languages.

Travis County is well above the state and national averages in terms of educational attainment. Fifty percent of adults over age 25 have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared to 30 percent in Texas and 33 percent in the U.S.

On the other end of the spectrum, Travis County is doing only slightly better than the state and nation: 11 percent of adults here don’t have high school diplomas, compared to 16 percent in Texas and 12 percent nationally.

About 12 percent of county residents live in poverty, including 16 percent of children. The overall poverty rate took a big drop from 2014, when it stood at 17 percent. That puts the county in a slightly better position than the state (15 percent in poverty) and the U.S. (13 percent).

The overall median household income in 2018 was $76,392, but there is a wide variation between types of households. For a married couple with children, it was $118,200. The lowest median income was for single women with children ($36,693), which was significantly lower than single men with children ($56,921). When there are no children, the gap between single men and women narrows ($47,850 for men and $44,355 for women).

Photo by mlhradio made available through a Creative Commons license.

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